Growing up, when I was faced with decisions, my parents would sometimes tell me, “There can be more than one right choice.”
I didn’t believe them.
I thought it was my responsibility to diligently decipher the one right school for me. The one right house, career, number of kids, city to live in…
What is the right thing to do? What is the plan God has for me? What is the career for me? What is the right school? The right church? The best time to have kids? The right place to retire?
These are questions I have asked myself and God over and over again in my life. I’m guessing you ask questions like these too, with good intentions of living with faith and purpose.
But it is easy to overlook the humble little word in all of these questions that can hold us back.
It’s only three letters, but loaded with power.
It tells us there is only one.
The way. The answer. The plan. The approach. The will.
The holds the power to fill us up with anxiety. Weigh us down with pressure.
The touts perfection, as it sends us on quests for the one right thing.
Then, if we find it, the breeds intolerance. Control. Criticism. Judgment. Limits. We have found our the, so it becomes the only way. For us and for others.
So, let’s try on a new word. An even smaller one. Only one letter. But a lot more freedom.
A gives us the freedom to choose. To consider the possibility that there is more than one. Sometimes there will be and sometimes there won’t.
But there is not always only one.
What is the a career for me? What is the a right school? What is the a right church? What is the a good time to have kids? What is the a good place to retire? What is the a right thing to do? What is the a plan God has for me?
Do you feel less anxious as you read these questions? Do you wonder if there is more than one answer? Do you find freedom in more than one?
Maybe your house or job isn’t the only. Maybe there is another work/life balance that would work for you and your family. Maybe there are other neighborhoods and cities and teachers and soccer teams and Monday-Friday schedules that are right too.
And, maybe, we don’t even have to pray for the plan God has for us. He is a creative God – maybe He has more than one. Maybe He wants us to choose. Because one of the very first things God showed humanity was that He values freedom. All it took was some fruit trees and two people who were allowed to make choices.
Choices of good vs. evil, yes. But, also choices of good vs. good.
“You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden – except the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:16-17
All except one.
Not only one.
Replacing the with a in our prayers and decisions and conversations reminds us that there is a whole garden of “goods” out there – schools, careers, neighborhoods, ways to parent, schedules, places to retire, ways to spend money.
A makes room for more than one fruit tree. It stretches our boundaries of tolerance and shrinks those of our judgment.
A permits desire to play a role in our choices. It invites us to taste a variety of fruits, and choose one that tastes good.
A breeds contentment. Because of the freedom that comes from walking in gardens of abundant goodness, instead of the resentment that comes from racing through labyrinths in pursuit of the.
I am trying on a these days. As I pray, listen and make decisions. As I fight judgment, control and perfectionism.
And I am starting to believe that my parents were right.